A Hard Lesson in Poison Prevention…Children Really Do Act Fast

By Darlene Dinkins

I knew the slogan by heart, “Children act fast, so do poisons,” could recite prevention tips in my sleep, and rattle off poisoning data. Still, by the end of the evening, I found myself frantically calling the Poison Control Center for help.

It was a typical evening of trying to wrestle my 1-year-old son and 2-½-year-old daughter into the bath and bed by 7:30 pm. My husband and I usually shared this wonderful duty, but he wasn’t home, so I had the honor to myself. As I turned back to help my son, I heard the “ssssssssss” of aerosol and Niya’s scream, “My eyes! Mommy…my eyes!” When I turned around and saw Niya, her eyes were closed tight. She was holding a disinfectant can. I grabbed her and ran to the bathroom to flush her face with cool water and tried to calm her. Meanwhile, I couldn’t help but think about how this would affect her vision. Is the chemical burning her eyes? Should I take her to the emergency room? At that point, I started to panic and decided to call Poison Control. The poison center expert I spoke to on the phone was courteous, informative, and calm. She confirmed that flushing with cool running water was best. My daughter was fine. I was relieved.

That incident happened nearly 12 years ago, but I still think about it every March as I prepare for National Poison Prevention Week. I still remember the relief I felt – for immediate access, expertise, and reassurance from the poison center.

That day I learned the true value of the 60 American Association of Poison Control Centers nationally. The relief, knowing that Niya would be fine, and that I didn’t need to take her to the emergency room was priceless.

I was also reminded about the need to be diligent: keeping household chemicals out of children’s reach, using child-resistant packaging properly by closing the container tightly after use, and reclosing products if I’m interrupted.

And, the most memorable thing I learned that evening was that children really do act fast.
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About the author: Darlene Dinkins has been working for EPA since 1992 and has served on the Poison Prevention Week Council since 1995. She assists with coordinating national efforts to educate the public on preventing poisonings.

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